Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Tactics: Who needs wingers? How to fit five central midfielders into one team

Jonathan Weaver argues the tactical answer is right in front of our eyes, and the more you think about it the better it gets

The last few weeks have seen the Swans experience a series of ups and downs, which have resulted in the beginning of the year being quite a testing time. I'm very happy to say we have managed to pull through, claiming a well earned win away at Southampton courtesy of a beautiful goal by Jonjo, showing exactly what he is capable of.

One of the things which the last few weeks have got me thinking about is that maybe it's time for the Swans to tweak how we line up for some games, based on a few things.

1) It seems abundantly clear that Jonjo is too good to be on the bench but can't be relied upon to  play in the holding role.  That said, you can't drop Gylfi when he is back from suspension.

2) In signing Jack Cork, we finally have a holding midfielder who has enough physicality to deal with what some teams throw at us.

3) Arguably one of our best most consistent players this season has been Ki and again, would need to play

4) We retain possession much better (as previously proven on this website) when Leon is playing.

You combine all these elements together with the fact that our wingers have been in patchy form at best and a new system becomes clear to me. When was the last time one of our wingers ran past his man to cross for a goal scoring opportunity? Montero would probably be the last one only player to have attempted that regularly this season, and he can't do it all on his own.

So, what do this mean in terms of tactics?

Well to me, watching Chelsea you probably see the most solid, hard working team in the league and they essentially play with two holding midfielders in Matic and Fabregas who break up play and set the ball moving forward with direct passing.  They then have (essentially) 3 "number tens" playing behind the single striker in Costa.  Hazard, Oscar and Willian would in any other team be fighting for a single number 10 role but at Chelsea they all are tasked with high pressing when defending, then creating chances, scoring goals and playing some good football when going forward, in what is a 3 behind the striker.  They all seem to pop up at any time in a different position, but essentially set the tone for the team in terms of work rate.

Why not use a similar system for tougher games? Especially against tough tackling teams, I believe we could use such a system ourselves to good effect.

Imagine a holding midfield with Jack Cork and Leon Britton (or Tom Carrol/Jay Fulton depending on injuries) who are tasked with tackling, winning the ball back, retaining possession and keeping the ball moving forward, and then in front of them a trio of Sigurdsson, Shelvey and Ki behind Gomis.

Yes it would mean setting out without wingers but like I stated earlier, on current form that doesn't lose us much. It would need Ki and Shelvey to work in a different area of the pitch, but with those three on the pitch together I think our physicality and work rate would go up, our ability to retain the ball would increase, and our goal scoring threat would increase.

Think about Shelvey moving forward, he is such a threat either shooting or crossing that it is very hard to drop him, but again can't be trusted at times to hold midfield together. To that end, remember those videos of Ki scoring blinders from outside the box for Celtic? Well he obviously has the ability and has already been better in front of goal this season, and again is so good at keeping the ball he would have to play.

One of the biggest issues with this system is that we would lose some width going forward. For this to work it would mean that it would have to come from the full backs but with Naughton and Taylor that should be achievable and again, if you look at Chelsea that's how they make it work. With that midfield five I do think that we would stop the problem of players going missing which in recent weeks we have seen at times.

Finally, if you set up like that it would mean that come sixty minutes you could bring on Montero, Barrow or Dyer for half an hour to terrorise a tiring defence. Not a bad option at all, and it could be very, very exciting once games open up a little more.

A big thanks to Jonathan making his TSW debut today - give him a follow on Twitter @Jonathan_Weaver. I wholeheartedly agree with this piece - it hadn't occurred to me whatsoever but with a high pressing game, and a lack of output from our wingers, this could be a fairly natural and beneficial switch. Agree? Disagree? Get involved in the comment section below!